7 Famous Explorers Who Made Significant Discoveries ...


I can completely understand what drove the world’s famous explorers into ships to set sail to discover foreign lands. Wanderlust is not a modern concept even if the word is. I often imagine what it must have been like to know that you were either the first person to stand on a completely new piece of the world or to discover a civilization so different and far away from your own. As a woman back in the great ages of discovery, I’d never have even dreamed of becoming one of the world’s famous explorers. Heck, we weren’t even allowed on ships much of the time. Today though, I can satisfy my own wanderlust, even if I’ll never emulate the dizzying discoveries of these famous explorers.

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Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan Born in 1480, Ferdinand Magellan of Portugal is one of the most famous explorers ever and is credited with the first ever circumnavigation of the Earth, though he did not survive its completion. Though, as a young adult, he fought for his country throughout India, Egypt, and Malaysia, young Ferdinand did not draw the queen’s favor and, in 1517, he instead turned to the Spanish court, offering Spain his services. At the time, a treaty divided the New World, and Magellan wanted to reclaim the Spice Islands for Spain. Endorsed by King Charles V, Magellan captained five ships, which sailed to Brazil and then onward down the coastline of South America. Though the rest of the trip was tumultuous, including mutinies, deaths, sickness and even all-out war (as Magellan attempted to gain favor with a local ruler in the Philippines by fighting alongside him, resulting in his brother-in-law’s and his own death), Juan Sebastian del Cano completed the circumnavigation nearly three years after Magellan had died in battle.


Hernan Cortes

Hernan Cortes Born in 1485, Hernan Cortes grew up in the Kingdom of Castile in Spain, attending university there and harvesting a desire for exploration. In 1504, Cortez quenched this thirst by leaving Spain for the New World, intending to colonize the island, Hispaniola. Cortes served in the conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba and, because of this, was provided a huge estate and Indian slaves. Cortes led an expedition of 11 ships and 500 men into Mexico in 1519. Upon arrival, he burnt his ships, so that there was no turning back. When he reached the city of Tenochitlan, befriending Indians along the way, he was greeted warmly by the Emperor Montezuma II. He was then briefly deterred by a group of Spanish forces who’d arrived from Cuba to take away his commanding position. After defeating these forces, he returned to find that the city had revolted. Though he and his crew left temporarily, Cortes returned in 1521 and conquered the whole Aztec Empire.


Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin Some famous explorers had more than travel, royal tributes and colonization on their minds when they set sail. Born in 1809, even early on, Charles Darwin showed a great aptitude for natural history. During his second year of university studies, Darwin became a student member of a natural history group, learning how to properly classify plants and animals. Through a recommendation from a botanist friend, Darwin was allowed to join the HMS Beagle, whose journey set out in 1831 and would return almost five years later. In those five years, Darwin investigated geology and made astounding natural history collections, which he was allowed to catalog upon his return home. This catalog later became the foundation for his writings On the Origin of Species and his Theory of Evolution.


Marco Polo

Marco Polo Born in 1254, Marco Polo traveled to Cathay (present-day China) in 1271 with his wealthy parents. Pope Gregory X had asked that they deliver letters to Kublai Khan, with whom the older Polos were already acquainted. This epic three-year journey took them through Armenia, Persia, Afghanistan, over the Pamir mountains, down the Silk Road, across the Taklamaken and Gobi desert, all the way to Cambaluc (present-day Beijing). Over the next seventeen years, Marco Polo held several government positions in Khan’s court, including Governor of the City of Yangzhou and Ambassador to Khan. He also led expeditions into India, Burma, and other areas of China. A book about his travels was later published and became very popular in Medieval Europe.


Lewis and Clark

Lewis and Clark America’s attention turned westward upon the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. Led by US Army Captain Mariwether Lewis and William Clark, an expedition set out from St. Louis in 1804 with 22 soldiers, 3 sergeants, as well as a number of volunteers and interpreters. They headed up the Missouri River, and wintered in Fort Mandan. Once spring came round, they crossed the Continental Divide then continued towards the Pacific along the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia Rivers. They split into three groups on the return journey, in order to map more land. Upon arriving home in St. Louis after 28 months with a mass of information, they were greeted with a heroes’ welcome and cemented their place in history among America’s great explorers.


Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary Born in 1919 in New Zealand, Sir Edmund Hillary became an avid climber, setting out for Mount Everest in 1953. The expedition’s leader, John Hunt, split the group into two teams – Tom Bourdillion paired with Charles Evans, and Edmund Hillary paired with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The expedition comprised 10,000 lbs of luggage, 362 porters, and 20 Sherpa guides. The first attempt by Bourdillion and Evans had them turning back within 100m of the summit due to exhaustion. Two days later, Hillary and Norgay began their ascent, reaching the top on May 29, 1953. Hillary and John Hunt were both knighted for their efforts, and Queen Elizabeth II awarded Norgay the George Medal.


Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus Born in Italy in 1451, Christopher Columbus became a seaman in the Portuguese merchant marine. Sponsored by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I of Spain, Columbus set off in 1492, in an attempt to reach Asia by a westward route. With three ships, The Nina, The Pinta, and The Santa Maria, Columbus sailed to the Canary Islands, restocked his supplies, and sailed on across the Atlantic. Sighting land in October 12, 1492, Columbus and his crew came upon Cuba and Hispaniola, and founded the settlement of La Navidad. Returning to Palos in 1493, Columbus would make another three expeditions to the New World, increasingly discovering what we now know as the Caribbean.

I think I would have like to have been Captain Cook who discovered Australia but I’d happily be any of the above too! Are there any famous explorers you admire? Which do you think is the most important discovery?

Feedback Junction

Where Thoughts and Opinions Converge

@Jessa, I am well aware of these things. Many of the worlds explorers were sponsored by rulers who only had one cause in funding these expeditions and explorations and that was to further their wealth and power. And in those causes, people were of little consequence. And it isn't just Columbus and Cortes - the discovery of Australia took the land from the Aboriginal peoples, the conquest of North America took the land from the Native Americans. every corner of black Africa was ravaged by white men. It was only places like Japan who wouldn't let foreigners into the country that remained free of outside "interference" that had negative impacts on indigenous peoples and cultures. Very few countries can claim they have not been subject to oppression by another nation/culture at some point in their history. But, it's not right to lay it at the explorer's door.

No. Columbus and Cortes did not discover anything. It had already been discovered by the Indians who inhabited the land that they stole from the Indians. Before you call them great people you should probably go in read up on some actual history books I don't lie and hide all the secrets of a horrible horrible things that they did to the people living there on the islands. When you find out I guarantee you will not tell people how good they are anymore. They did so many in humane things. It makes me sick to even hear their names. I'm not being rude or mean I just believe that people need to research before saying things that they're not aware of and its not your fault, history of that and other things have been kept in from many people for many years

I agree. Besides that, the Vikings (they were very sweet guys as well ) had already sailed to America, long before Columbus did. Archeologists found Viking stuff in New Foundland. I am not an expert, but I know for sure that the Spanish and Portugese were not peaceful, they were looking for gold and spices. They also introduced diseases in the 'new world', of which a lot of Indians died.

Abel Tasman discovered Tasmania. He is Dutch.... (just kidding).

Columbus is not a man worth celebrating! He was a malicious man who took natives as slaves, raped the women and slaughtered those who didn't hale to him. Also, he did not "discover" America. You can't discover land that was already inhabited.

And Charles is a joke. Go watch the movie God is NOT dead and you will understand.

Was Dutch.

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